Coral Springs

 

1725 N. University Drive

Suite 350

Coral Springs, FL 33071

Telephone: (954) 227-2700

Fax: (954) 227-2704

Linda Berlin, Psy.D.

&

Psychological Associates

Boca Raton

 

7000 W. Palmetto Park Road

Suite 407

Boca Raton, FL 33433

Telephone: (561) 347-0997

Fax: (561) 347-0996

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS

Q:  “My daughter is constantly trying new diets, even though her weight is within the normal range for her height and age group.  She weighs herself several times each day.  Should I be concerned?”

A: Frequent dieting during adolescence is often a precursor to eating disorders and may stem from more serious problems such as depression, low self-esteem and anxiety.  Treatment of the underlying issues is crucial.  Explain your concerns to your daughter and tell her that you are taking her to speak with a professional who specializes in eating problems.  She may be resistant, but stand firm.  It is important that she be assessed for an eating disorder as soon as possible.

Q:  “My husband and I are recently divorced.  Our 14-year-old daughter seemed to be adjusting, but we have noticed that she has begun restricting her food intake, obsessing about her weight and exercising excessively.  She is losing weight rapidly. Could this be a reaction to the divorce?”

A:  When adolescents believe they are powerless over situations that adversely affect their lives, they often look for ways to seize control wherever they can.  Although your daughter may have felt powerless to control the status of her family and her living situation, she has found a way to control other aspects of her life. In this case, her body.  She may also believe that if she can become sick enough, you and your husband will reunite out of mutual concern for her.  It is important to seek professional help for your daughter.  She needs the opportunity to speak with someone who can help her with the feelings that are causing her self-destructive behavior.  Also, because she is losing weight rapidly, make an appointment with her physician as soon as possible to rule-out any medical problems.

Q:  “I am a high school student and I am worried about my best friend.  I think she has an eating disorder.  I hear her vomiting in the girls’ bathroom every day after lunch.  I asked her about it and she got really mad at me.  I think I should tell her mom, but I’m afraid my friend will never speak to me again.  What should I do?”

A:  As difficult as it may be, alerting her mom to the problem is the first step in helping her get better.  At first, your friend may be angry with you for telling her “secret”, but eventually she will understand that you just want her to get the help she needs.  Another option is to tell a trusted school counselor. They have experience dealing with these issues. Whichever option you choose, just remember: the main goal is to make sure that your best friend gets better and that can’t happen unless the people who can help her know about the problem.

Q:  My wife and I are newly-weds.  While we were still dating, she told me that she had struggled with bulimia as a teenager.  Lately, I have begun to suspect that she is purging, again.  Maybe she never stopped.   I thought we had a good relationship and I am disappointed that she has not been honest with me.  What can I do?”

A:  Please understand that many people who struggle with eating disorders experience feelings of tremendous shame.  They may also be fearful that they will disappoint the people they love.  If your wife is purging, she may not be telling you because she is afraid you might judge her, reject her or be angry with her.  Please convey your concerns to her in a very loving, non-judgmental   manner.  Agree to support her in any way you can, but encourage her to seek treatment.  You can even offer to go with her for her first therapy session.  Learn as much as you can about eating disorders and how you can support her. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

printer friendly version

EATING DISORDERS:

WHAT'S A PARENT TO DO?

By: Marsha Flood, MS, LMHC

 

Now, as female celebrities are frequently making tabloid news due to their ever-shrinking bodies, eating disorders have once again found their way back into our awareness. Although eating disorders usually begin between the ages of 12 and 25, we are beginning to hear from mothers of 9-year-old girls who are presenting with symptoms of anorexia or bulimia.

 

Today, one out of every five college women struggles with bulimia and one out of every ten  is struggling with anorexia.  The prevalence of this disorder among high school students is about the same.  Many years ago, anorexia and bulimia occurred exclusively among middle and upper-class adolescent girls with above average intelligence.  This is no longer true.  Eating disorders now cut across all socio-economic, racial, age and intellectual boundaries.

 

THE SIGNS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

 

It is important to remember that eating disorders are really not about food.  They are about underlying emotional issues.  For girls growing up in today's society, weight and self-esteem are closely linked.  Depression and low self-esteem seem to be the keys to the development of an eating disorder; a feeling that "I'm not good enough.... if only I were skinny..."  If you know what to look for, you can seek help for your daughter before symptoms become out of control.  Listed, are signs and symptoms of both anorexia and bulimia: 

Anorexia: 

  • Refusal to eat
  • A loss of 15% or more of ideal body weight
  • Preoccupation with calories, diet and exercise
  • Distorted body image
  • Continued dieting when not overweight
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight and feeling overweight despite being already thin
  • Excessive exercise
  • Denial of hunger
  • Loss of menstrual period
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Perfectionism
  • Socially isolated
  • Depressed and withdrawn

Bulimia:   

  • Overly concerned with food, body weight, and shape
  • Consumption of large amounts of food (Bingeing)
  • Purging through self-induced vomiting, laxatives or excessive exercise
  • Sore throats
  • Body weight is usually normal or above normal
  • Intestinal problems
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Eroded tooth enamel
  • Depressed and withdraw

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

As mentioned above, young women who are eating-disordered struggle with a certain degree of depression and low self-esteem.  At an age when they are entering puberty, with all the inherent body changes associated with that time, they are being bombarded with peer pressure, media images and sometimes familial pressures.

 

There is not a parent alive who is not familiar with the role that peer pressure plays in the behavior of our children.   A few years ago, a local front-page story made national news.  A twelve-year-old middle school student hung himself the day before the beginning of a new school year.  He was overweight and could not bear the thought of one more year of humiliation from his classmates.

 

Every day, adolescent girls are exposed to pressure to measure up to the physical expectations of adolescent boys.  Cruel comments that may be meant as jokes can be devastating to a young girl at this extremely vulnerable time in her life.  The effects of peer pressure to be thin and beautiful can lead adolescent girls to do things that are harmful to their bodies in order to be accepted by boys as well as other girls.

 

Advertisers spend billions of dollars every year in an effort to make us feel as bad as we possibly can about ourselves.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t buy their products.  That is the psychology behind advertising.  We are constantly presented with images that attempt to convince us that beauty and success rests in our ability to simply buy the right products.  Every day, we are inundated by images on television, in magazines and in newspapers.  These images portray one single look, which is virtually unattainable by most of us.  The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 145 pounds.  The average fashion model is 5’10” and weighs 111 pounds.  It has been estimated that only 3-5% of women will ever reach fashion-model proportions without becoming eating disordered.

 

Many young women learn how to be eating-disordered at home. Children develop their attitudes about food and their bodies the same way they learn everything else in those early years; from their parents.  Those of us who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders often hear our clients say that the message they received at home was that they would be liked more if they would just eat less, lose weight and wear a smaller size. 

PREVENTION

We know that our daughters are exposed to influences that we did not experience when we were their ages.  As parents, how can we be a positive influence?  The following are suggestions that are meant to help you convey healthy attitudes about food, weight and body image to your daughter. 
  1. Make family meals relaxed and friendly.  Try to keep from commenting on children’s eating and using food as either a punishment or a reward.

  2. Avoid conveying the attitude that they will be more acceptable or loved if they weigh less or eat less.

  3. Help your daughter understand that people come in all sizes and shapes and that there is a genetic basis for differences in body shapes and body weight. Make sure she knows that weight gain is a normal and necessary part of development during puberty.  It is nature’s way of preparing the body for future childbearing. 

  4. Make sure that your daughter is taken seriously for what she says, feels and does, not just for how she looks.  Make sure that her school includes images of successful females in the curriculum.  Without these images, she will be left with the images of what the media defines as success for females.

  5. Help your children (both girls and boys) ignore body shape as being related to a person’s personality or worth.  Refrain from using disparaging terms in front of your children.  Many women who we have treated remember the impact such remarks had on them when they were younger.

  6. Avoid referring to food as being either good or bad, safe or dangerous, low-fat or fattening.  Teach your daughters about the danger of trying to alter body shape through dieting and the value of exercise.

  7. Help your daughters develop interests that do not have an emphasis on appearance, but will lead to personal expression and fulfillment.

  8. When you watch television or look at magazines with your daughter, discuss the images of the females presented.  Help them to understand that what they see in the media is really just a fantasy.

CONCLUSION

Our daughters need to feel valued, accepted and loved with no strings attached.  They need to feel loved for who they are, not for what they weigh.  As parents, we need to listen to them and talk directly about values, feelings and problems so that they will learn how to express feelings rather than keep them inside.  We need to teach them that the scales are fickle, that dieting is dangerous and that it is WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS!  

If you suspect that your daughter has an eating disorder, immediately seek help from a professional who specializes in the treatment of this disease.  Tell her that you are taking her to see the specialist and explain why.  Expect her to be resistant.  Denial is part of the disease and she may not want to let go of her behavior, but stand firm. Eating disorders are more easily treated in the beginning stages.

 

Marsha Flood, MS, LMHC specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She practices in the offices of Linda Berlin, Psy.D. & Psychological Associates in Coral Springs and Boca Raton.  To learn more about Marsha Flood click here or she can be reached at (954) 227-2700 or (561) 347-0997.

 

printer friendly version

 
 
Home | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | ©2009 Linda Berlin, Psy.D. Psychological Associates, P.A.